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Matteo Garrone’s gritty revenge drama “Dogman,” which won the best actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival, is Italy’s candidate for the foreign-language Oscar.

Dubbed an “urban Western,” the movie is inspired by a murder committed by a dog groomer during the late 1980s in a gang-ridden area outside Rome. The film marks Garrone’s return to smaller-scale Italian-language filmmaking following his English-language fantasy “Tale of Tales.”

Garrone previously had a shot at Oscar glory with hit 2008 Neapolitan mob drama “Gomorrah,” which was considered a top contender in 2009 but did not make the Academy’s shortlist of nominees, causing a bit of a stir even among U.S. critics.

Italy last won the prize – its 11th, the most of any country – in 2014 with Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty.” Sorrentino’s new film, “Loro,” about the excesses of the Berlusconi era, was expected to be in the running this year, but producer Indigo Film did not submit it to avoid potential friction with Garrone, according to sources.

Sorrentino has already won his Oscar, and “Dogman” is considered the stronger contender.

In “Dogman,” newcomer Marcello Fonte plays the mild-mannered dog groomer caught up in a spiral of violence with a bullying boxer. Fonte “gives an expert performance as a saintly scamp who ‘blooms’ into a butterfly of vengeance,” Variety critic Owen Gleiberman said in his review. Besides the acting nod for Fonte, “Dogman” also won Cannes’ unofficial Palm Dog award for its canine cast.

Magnolia Pictures will be releasing “Dogman” in the U.S.

Produced by Garrone’s own Archimede shingle with RAI Cinema, France’s Le Pact, and in collaboration with Jeremy Thomas’ HanWay, which has U.K. rights, “Dogman” has several similarities with “Gomorrah” in terms of their criminal underworld theme and atmospherics. It recently swept Italy’s Silver Ribbon prizes, which are awarded by the Italian film journalists’ union, and was considered the front-runner as Italy’s foreign Oscar contender this year.

RAI Cinema managing director Paolo Del Brocco noted in a statement that “Dogman” had already sold to more than 40 territories and that it was chosen “with the conviction” that it stands a strong chance against foreign Oscar candidates from the rest of the world.

“Matteo Garrone is one of Italian cinema’s most talented Italian directors,” Del Brocco said. “We are ready to support him with great enthusiasm in this new adventure.”